External Affairs

Bangladesh, Divided Across a Canal of Fear

Bangladeshi folk art. Credit:  futureatlas.com/blog/

Bangladeshi folk art. Credit: futureatlas.com/blog/

I have to say it.

Bangladesh has been divided across a canal-of-fear – this side and the other. When “Jamaat”-”Shibir”-”Hefazot”-”Madrasa” students are killed, sympathetic Muslims believe that a festival of “killing the Muslims” is going on. When an “atheist-blogger” or someone completely untagged like Professor Rezaul Karim is murdered, then the kind-hearted think the “extremist Muslims” are behind such atrocities.

Sympathies flow in for the dead through political and cultural alignments. There is politics involved in these sympathies.

In this way, the killers are able to divide the country into two parts, dig a long canal-of-fear, and keep us at each other’s throat. In spite of whatever alignments we try to adjust to, on both the banks, the ditch – of fear and hatred – is deepening and expanding.

Of course, there are beneficiaries of these killings. If Bangladesh can be labelled as under the siege of extremists, then the “war-on-terror” resuscitates and gains regional currency. Our neighbours – Myanmar and India – will not trust us. If the polity and the people as a whole are divided, and if the people are disgraced in “foreign eyes“, then it is much easier to maintain power one-sidedly, to loot national wealth and to suppress the people. The current autocracy running the nation, in the name of fighting the militant extremists, then becomes legitimate.

Power remains in power by bribing the superpower(s).

If the assassins cannot be known, why don’t we try to understand the patterns and strategies behind? Not through the lenses of bipolar ideologies, but by considering all citizens as our brothers and sisters.

Let me tell a relevant story: a fox wants to eat a cock, which gets up a tree when he sees it. So, the fox strategises. Turning its back to the cock, it starts wagging its tail as though it was a pendulum of a clock. By watching this moving tail and keenly following what the fox was up to, the cock is mesmerised, enthralled, and falls from the tree. The fox’s wish is fulfilled.

On the one side, there is killing, rape, torture, and repression. On the other, banks, land, the great Sunderban Forest, gas-port-power and national sovereignty slips out of our hands. It is up to us, whether we would consider these as isolated individual incidents, or as different episodes of a single “Game Of Thrones”. But the ditch of fear and hatred is fostering much bigger, much deeper dangers. The seasoned players of “Deep Politics” are entrenched in a suicidal “Secular-vs-Islam” game. We are their weapons and victims. It is not a war on civilisation, it is not a war among rival ideologies, nor a war over the history of the 1971 liberation war. Rather, it is a war against the people of Bangladesh by creating false divisions and curtailing their rights as citizens. Some forces are trying to reshape our political borderline by pulling us into a social minefield of mutual hatred and fear. Cultural or moral prejudices should not prevent us from calling a spade a spade.

Bangladeshi youth – of leftist and rightist orientation – appear to be blinded by the firecrackers of emotion and lack of intelligence. They were used to create today’s situation; at the same time, they are its victim. They have forgotten how to observe, analyse, understand and think. Fear and hatred is clouding their sight and paralysing their will to resist.

If these youth do not rapidly shed their political immaturity, the country will continue to be squeezed by the machine of the superpowers. The foreign colonisers and national traitors will happily keep on drinking the honey from that destroyed carcass of this nation.

Faruk Wasif ([email protected]) is a poet and essayist based in Dhaka; this essay is translated from Bengali by Rajeeb Samad of the War on Error writers collective.

  • OnePageBio

    What is new here! Bangladesh is divided and the youths are blind. Who does not know that? But what is the plan? What is the solution? How?

  • Muhammad Ahmedullah

    This article by Faruk Wasif is an example of how simplicity is the best way to understand the human experience of confused complexity and help people develop a better understanding of the actual reality. It is often very difficult to see the bigger pictures, general trends, overall patterns and main the characteristics of seemingly complex reality, especially when we ourselves are embroiled as participants in social / nationalistic political conflicts. Simply written, the article brings out the profound reality of our predicament. As such if we pay attention to the insights of Faruk Wasif, as presented in the article, we will have a better chance of preventing further descent into more and more polarised chaos and dangerous times, which are unnecessary and counterproductive for our country’s future.